Safe and harmonious apartment living during the Covid-19 pandemic

Strata lawyer Amanda Farmer helps strata communities navigate high-density life.

As we navigate spending more time at home during the Covid-19 pandemic, there are additional challenges for those living in apartments.

Managing access to common areas, noise complaints and challenges to strata cash flow are just some of what owners corporations grapple with.

“During this time of Covid-19, there are some hard decisions for our strata committees and owners corporations to be making,” said strata lawyer Amanda Farmer. “It’s hard as there is no hard and fast guidance for our buildings. We don't have the government saying, 'you must close your gyms and pools', for example.”

Amanda is a strata lawyer and owner of the legal practice Lawyers Chambers. She is also the founder of online community Your Strata Property, and hosts a podcast of the same name.

She shared insights and advice in a recent free City of Sydney webinar, Safe and harmonious apartment living during Covid-19. Nearly 80% of the City of Sydney’s residents live in apartment communities and hundreds of people participated, demonstrating there is a real need for strata-specific Covid-19 information.

We caught up with Amanda to discuss participant questions, misunderstandings and contentious issues within strata communities. Here are 5 outtakes about how strata committees, building managers and owners corporations might manage challenges within apartment buildings at this time.

1. Public Health Orders and strata communities

Ambiguity around whether Public Health Orders apply to gyms and pools in apartment complexes is just one element causing misunderstandings. Amanda provided clarification about Public Health Orders and common areas in strata schemes. She shared advice about making the least-worst decisions around these shared facilities during Covid-19.

Embedded content: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyJO2pz3iiQ

2. Stopping renovations during the Covid-19 pandemic

With more people working from home and sensitive to noise, and concerns around contractors accessing buildings, there are a lot of questions around whether owners can be compelled to stop approved renovations. Do building managers or strata committees have the authority to halt renovations?

Embedded content: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZqWs5RtyX8

3. Disclosure of Covid-19 diagnoses

There has been some confusion as to whether residents are legally obliged to disclose their Covid-19 diagnosis to their building manager, strata committee or owners corporation. Amanda clarified legal and voluntary disclosure.

Embedded content: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5tfIQPYYi0

4. Short-term letting in apartment complexes

Short-term letting is a contentious issue for owners corporations at the best of times. Many residents are more concerned than ever about people they don’t know moving in and out of their buildings.

Recent changes to the Strata Schemes Management Act (2015) allow the passing of a by-law to prevent investor-owners from letting for less than 90 days. Amanda unpacked the legislation in more detail.

Embedded content: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTwUjYi9HVc

5. Holding meetings online

Due to concerns about health and safety, in-person meetings may not be desirable for strata communities.

Some owners corporations have already decided to move to online meetings and electronic voting, although they may be doing so with some risk, Amanda said.

“To be able to hold a general meeting other than in person, under the NSW legislation, you do first need to meet in person and resolve that you are going to have meetings other than in person.”

There is a concern that some buildings haven't done that so the validity of online meetings and the decisions made within them can be challenged by a lot owner in the future.

There is a process to conduct a meeting with just 1 person present to approve future electronic meetings.

Embedded content: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmtfBt7NfS8

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Further resources

Disclaimer: This content is intended to provide general information about strata living during COVID-19. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. The City of Sydney makes no warranty as to the accuracy of any of the information contained within the article or videos.

Posted . Last updated .

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